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FROM THE SEMINARIES: MBTS $1M student center challenge grant; state senator highlights SWBTS prison program

In today’s From the Seminaries:
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Foundation issues $1M challenge for MBTS student center

By T. Patrick Hudson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla., has issued a $1 million challenge grant to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary toward the construction of the Mathena Student Center. The total cost of the project is estimated at $12 million.

The Mabee Foundation board issued the challenge grant opportunity following its Oct. 11 board meeting.

The foundation’s action is “truly a providential gift from God,” MBTS President Jason Allen said. “The need for a campus student center has existed since Midwestern Seminary’s inception in 1957, and the Mabee Foundation’s generosity in this regard will enable us to realize what, up to this point, has only been a dream.”

The student center project will entail a 39,000-square-foot-building in the heart of the seminary’s campus in Kansas City, Mo. The facility will include a fully-equipped gymnasium; exercise and aerobic areas; education and recreational spaces; a campus bookstore and resource center; a new cafeteria and café; seminar-style classrooms; offices for student services; campus events and select administrative staff; and commons areas to foster mentorship, discipleship and campus community.

“The student center will complete the heart of campus and will sit beside Midwestern Seminary’s chapel complex, to which the Mabee Foundation generously contributed,” Allen said. “This new student center is the most urgent need before Midwestern Seminary, and it will position us to take the next step as one of North America’s truly elite theological institutions.

“The beneficiaries of the student center will be, first and foremost, the men and women on campus preparing for Christian ministry. Yet, the scope of impact is much greater than our students. It will serve their spouses, their families and the entire seminary community,” he added.

Midwestern already has raised more than $8.5 million toward the $12 million goal, which includes a $7 million dollar lead gift from the Mathena family of Oklahoma City and gifts from several other seminary supporters. To meet the provisions of Mabee challenge grant, the seminary must raise the remaining funds to complete the student center project by Oct. 11, 2017.

“There is much work to be done to meet the provisions of the Mabee Foundation’s challenge grant, and we are seeking friends to come alongside us to support this project,” Allen said. “However, we are confident that with God’s favor, the trust placed in us by this highly-respected organization will catapult us forward toward obtaining the funding goals for this vital construction project.”

According to its website, The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, Inc., is a private charitable foundation formed in 1948 by John E. Mabee and his wife Lottie E. Mabee. As stated in its charter, “the purposes of the Foundation are to aid Christian religious organizations, charitable organizations, institutions of higher learning, hospitals and other organizations of a general charitable nature.”

For more information about Midwestern’s student center project, contact the seminary’s institutional relations office at [email protected] or call 816- 414-3720.


Texas state senator recounts prison culture’s transformation

By Alex Sibley

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — With Texas State Sen. John Whitmire as Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel speaker, SWBTS President Paige Patterson noted the “peculiar” situation of inviting a Democratic senator to campus.

Patterson told the chapel audience, “I wanted you to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the man who has probably done as much as anybody else to make our baccalaureate in the maximum security unit at Darrington down south of Houston a reality.”

Whitmire “has worked and labored,” Patterson said, “and he comes to everything that we do down there. It is absolutely amazing the response that he has from the prisoners, their love for him.”

Patterson then noted a second reason for Whitmire’s Nov. 1 chapel invitation. “I wanted him to come here because I wanted him to see you,” he said, employing a bit of humor. “He normally only sees the prisoners down at Darrington; I wanted him to have the opportunity to see the inmates here.”

Whitmire, who has served in the Texas Senate since 1983 and chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, recounted to the chapel audience the history of Southwestern’s Darrington extension program. The idea grew from a visit by Whitmire and representatives from Southwestern to Angola prison in Louisiana where New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary offers a four-year bachelor’s program in Christian ministry.

During the visit, the group attended a Sunday evening worship service. Whitmire sat among the inmates, and his observations of their behavior led him to quickly write a note to the warden there. “Warden,” the senator wrote, “I’ve never seen so many men serving a life sentence with a smile on their face.”

In subsequently talking and praying with the Southwestern representatives, Whitmire then concluded, “Let’s take it to Texas.”

Southwestern’s Darrington extension program, comprising a four-year bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, was born out of this decision. The program began in 2011, and the first class of 33 inmates graduated in May 2015. More than 100 prisoners are currently enrolled.

In addition to transforming the inmates and their families, Whitmire said the program has transformed state prison culture at large, noting that the enrollees are “trained to go to other prisons to minister to people who will be getting out sooner than these ministers.”

“The ministers are some tough gentlemen, but they’ve given their souls, their lives to the Lord, and they know that if they’re not going to be free in this world, they’re going to be free in the next world,” Whitmire said. “They’re making a tremendous difference and wouldn’t be there without this seminary.”

Whitmire concluded by sharing his favorite passage of Scripture — 1 John 4:20-21 — which he called a “guiding light” for his life. These two verses explain that one who loves God must also love his brother, and that anyone who does not love his brother cannot love God.

“You can use these Scriptures to change people’s lives and, I think, judge your own life,” Whitmire said. “I certainly use it in my own work.

“How can I profess to love Jesus Christ as my Savior and then not reach and help an inmate, a homeless person, a student who may be having a particular challenge, my family members? Remember the Scripture, and reach out to your classmates, your family members, maybe a total stranger,” the senator said.

    About the Author

  • SBC Seminary & BP Staff

    Cassity Potter writes for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the SBC’s news service; Alex Sibley writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and S. Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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